France will begin the withdrawal of its military forces from Afghanistan in July and this will be completed by end of 2012, a year earlier than Paris had initially planned and two years before Nato allies, French President Francois Hollande has confirmed.
The decision follows a Taliban suicide attack that killed four French troops and injured five others who were taking part in a "control operation" in eastern Afghanistan, on the eve of key elections. Almost French 3,500 soldiers are deployed in Afghanistan.
Hollande was quoted by AFP as saying: "In the meantime, everything must be done for our troops to meet their obligations, but with the highest level of security and with the greatest vigilance for the lives of the soldiers."
Serving as the fifth largest contingent to Nato’s 130,000-strong US-led force, the French withdrawal may include 2,000 combat troops within six months. The remaining personnel will stay on for repatriating military equipment including 900 armoured vehicles and over 1,000 containers.
Hollande’s decision received little resistance from Nato partners during a recent summit in Chicago.
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